Policy Updates: Hill Happenings and Administration Activities

By Garrett Eberhardt January 21, 2020

Hill Happenings

Senate Appropriators Express Concern about Further Spending Diversions toward Border Wall

Members of the Senate Committee on Appropriations recently expressed concerns over reports that the White House plans to reprogram $7.2 billion in additional funding from the Pentagon toward the construction of a border wall. Appropriations Committee Chair Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) both spoke of their displeasure, while Sen. John Boozman (R-AR) said he plans torequest that the Trump Administration treduce the amount of money they plan to reprogram from military construction projects. Funding for a wall at the southern border was the point of contention for fiscal year 2020 appropriations negotiations. If the Administration goes through with the plan, Congressional Democrats are likely to force more votes in both the House and Senate to overturn the order.

CARE Act Gains New Congressional Lead Sponsor

H.R. 2569, the Comprehensive Addiction Resources Emergency (CARE) Act of 2019 gained a new sponsor last week when Committee on Oversight and Reform Chair Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) announced that she would be assuming the role of lead sponsor for the bill in place of the late Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD). The CARE Act seeks to expand access to substance use disorder treatment, particularly in those areas most affected by the opioid epidemic. Rep. Maloney has stated her intentions to championing access to high-quality treatment for all who may need it. NASTAD worked with Congress on the creation of the CARE Act.

Administration Activities

White House Proposes New Religious Freedom Rule for Federal Agencies

Late last week, the Trump administration proposed that that nine federal agencies adopt a new rule protecting religious freedom, including the Department of Health of Human Services (HHS), the Department of Justice, the Agency for International Development and the departments of Agriculture, Labor, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, Education and Housing and Urban Development. The rule would end a requirement for religious organizations to make referrals in certain circumstances to other providers and post notices about the referral procedure when providing social services. It also clarifies that religious organizations can apply for federal funds and that HHS wouldn't "discriminate against an organization on the basis of the organization's religious exercise or affiliation." Organizations such as Planned Parenthood have already objected to the rule, stating that tax dollars should not be devoted to organizations that may deny services to vulnerable communities.

FDA Panel Rejects Opioid Drugs

Last week, a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) joint panel consisting of the Anesthetic and Analgesic Drug Products and Drug Safety and Risk Management advisory committees voted against recommending FDA approval of the extended release opioid drug Aximris. The day before, it unanimously voted down the opioid oxycodegol, saying it lacked evidence of efficacy and safety. The panel split 13-13 over approval of a combination product including the relatively low-risk opioid tramadol and the anti-inflammatory drug celecoxib. In rejecting Aximris, the panel stated that the FDA must be clearer about what kind of abuse-deterrent drugs it would support in order to avoid encouraging companies to develop drugs with little hope of approval and questioned whether any decision they could have made would make a difference in countering an epidemic that has now largely moved to illegal drugs like heroin and fentanyl.

HRSA Seeking Nominations for CHACHSPT

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is currently seeking nominees to serve on the CDC/HRSA Advisory Committee on HIV, Viral Hepatitis and STD Prevention and Treatment (CHACHSPT). CHACHSPT advises the HHS Secretary, CDC Director, and HRSA Administrator on HIV, viral hepatitis, and STD prevention and treatment efforts, strategies, and priorities. The committee meets two times per year and those selected will be invited to serve for up to four years. Candidates may self-nominate or may be nominated by someone and packages (letter of interest, short bio, resume, and nominee contact info) should be sent to CHACAdvisoryComm@hrsa.gov NASTAD will be submitting nominations.

Ending the Epidemic

CDC Adds New Resources to HIV Website

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added new resources to its HIV website, including a Vital Signs report on Ending HIV transmission highlighting data on the progress made HIV transmission prevention in light of Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America’s goal to reduce new HIV infections by 90% by 2030; a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report on HIV Testing, Viral Suppression, and PrEP; and updated basic statistics on HIV and AIDS.

Resources

HHS will be hosting a webinar on January 29 from 2:00pm to 3:30pm EDT on the Ready, Set, PrEP program. The webinar will feature Dr. Tammy Beckham, Director of the Office of Infectious Disease and HIV/AIDS Policy, and representatives from the federal agencies who will discuss the program, who qualifies, how to enroll, and how it fits into Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative.

CDC will be hosting a webinar on January 22 at 2:00pm EDT presenting its National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD) theme, digital toolkit, and other resources from the Let’s Stop HIV Together campaign materials.

MMWR:  HIV Partner Service Delivery Among Transgender Women — United States, 2013–2017 
 

Job Opportunities

Manager, Prevention – Washington, DC

NASTAD is seeking a Prevention Manager as part of its prevention team to support health departments and community-based organizations implementation of high-impact HIV prevention programs. The position is responsible for providing technical assistance and training related to HIV cluster response, biomedical interventions, and Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP). The Manager, Prevention will coordinate training strategies related to HIV policy and health systems; and implement Jurisdictional TA Plans for health departments.

Associate, Prevention – Washington, DC

NASTAD is seeking a Prevention Associate to support NASTAD’s Capacity Building Assistance (CBA) program in providing technical assistance to health departments in the southern U.S. to advance efforts related to integrated HIV prevention activities and structural interventions. This position will report to the Senior Manager, Prevention and will be expected to work with other NASTAD teams, including Drug User Health, Hepatitis, Health Care Access, Health Systems Integration, and Health Equity to support cross-program collaborative activities.

Epidemiologist – Baltimore

The Baltimore City Department of Health’s STD/HIV Prevention Program has expanded its programs and is now seeking two additional epidemiologists to assist with data management, analysis, and maintenance requirements as well as maintaining data and surveillance quality improvement and assurance.

News Bulletin

Tenofovir Alafenamide for HIV Preexposure Prophylaxis: What Can We DISCOVER About Its True Value?

“In early 2019, the U.S. government launched the Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative, which aims to reduce HIV incidence by 90% before 2030. Daily preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) with a single pill containing tenofovir disoproxil fumarate with emtricitabine (TDF–FTC) virtually eliminates sexual HIV transmission, and scale-up of PrEP is a critical component of the federal initiative. Before TDF–FTC was used for PrEP, it was a cornerstone of HIV treatment, but it has been largely replaced by tenofovir alafenamide with emtricitabine (TAF–FTC), a newer regimen that was believed to be equally effective but safer. As we embark on a national effort to scale up PrEP, should we also abandon TDF–FTC in favor of TAF–FTC for HIV prevention?”